Member Spotlight: Claire Gunter
For over 20 years nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals have counted on Full Circle Fund (FCF) to help build a better Bay Area. Every year we count on our Members to share their time and talent to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations to fulfill their missions.
Why did you become a FCF member?
I joined FCF when I had been in San Francisco for exactly a decade. I have often been bothered by the disparity in income and access, and was looking for an opportunity to share my skills with someone building tech for good. It was important to me that any opportunities for mentorship be local, so once I heard of the FCF, I knew I wanted to join.
What was one of the biggest challenges your volunteer team worked on with the nonprofit partner?
I was part of the first FCF Tech Accelerator, and it was amazing to hear the pitches for products people were creating. I was so happy that the project I most admired, OnlineSOS (a safe place where people can find tools, information and, above all, empowerment, in the face of online harassment), won funding and was thrilled to be able to work directly with that team on building out their initiative. It was so similar to business, as our biggest challenge was finding product/market fit. We were already very aware of the problem, but online harassment is an issue for so many that it was hard to find the right audience where we could help the most. It was a challenge to make a decision and keep going, but we did it.
What was the most rewarding part of your FCF project experience?
I had two big breakthroughs. The first was around how visible issues become when you are on the solving side of things. I always knew that online harassment was an issue and that certain populations were experiencing it more than others, but once I started thinking about solutions, it opened my eyes to how pervasive and nefarious it was. This has changed how I interact with serious issues. Now, when I hear about a problem, instead of recognizing it and moving on, I think about how I would go about solving it. This has meant huge improvements in my work and personal life and I am so grateful I got the opportunity to develop in this way.
The second was around pivoting. I come from the tech world and am familiar with how scary and damaging pivots can be, but I never really stopped to think about pivots in approach instead of goals. Yes, I have found processes that don't work and discarded them, but during my time with the incubator, they completely redesigned and launched the program and the difference was staggering and positive. We accomplished more in the two weeks after the changes than we did in the first two months of the program. It isn't that we were doing poorly; it was that we had evolved but processes hadn't. I am much more welcoming to change, especially if I think it is going to truly help move the needle on something I care about.
How would you describe FCF to friends and family?
FCF is that little space in the center of the Venn diagram where tech, nonprofits, community and sense of purpose overlap. The organization feels so very local in that it gives tech people a place to share their work and knowledge that is for a greater good. We all know there is more out there than funding, valuations, exits, and all the trappings of tech, but FCF is the first organization I have seen ask for more than money and I love that.
Would you like to add anything else?
Things are so rough right now. COVID has been awful. Everyone is experiencing burnout and problems. People are losing everything while others are seeing more profit than ever, and all the while, San Francisco and the Bay Area feel more precarious, causing so many to leave. I wish more people had the opportunity to feel connected to the region through service and not just employment. Yeah, the weather is great and salaries, especially in tech, are high, but this is home and deserves to be treated as such. I think more people being involved in FCF and similar initiatives would accelerate improvements in the here and now.